In honor of Black History Month, Historic City News would like to outline St Augustine’s Emancipation history with a special focus on the Lincolnville neighborhood. Included are recommendations for lodging, restaurants, and cultural activities, provided by the St Johns Cultural Council.
Black Heritage in St Augustine
The Civil War began in 1861 and though Florida joined the Confederacy, Saint Augustine was quickly occupied by Union troops who maintained their hold throughout the war. Because of this, Saint Augustine is one of the very few places in the US where Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed any slaves upon its release: some states outlawed slavery two and a half years later due to low Union presence and inconsistent enforcement.
In March of 1862 during the Civil War, Union soldiers had occupied St Augustine. In January of 1863, military authorities received the first version of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and ordered that all slaves in the area be released to congregate in the vacant lot on St George Street. Here, the Proclamation was read, freeing all slaves in the state of Florida, making St Augustine one of the first in the South to break the bonds of slavery by executive order.
This historic event took place on what is now The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens, a boutique resort with the coziness of a B&B and the accommodations of a luxury hotel. The Collector has captured the attention of some of the world’s most admired travel publications like Condé Nast, Travel + Leisure, Vogue Magazine, the New York Times, and more as one of the best resort getaways in Florida and the United States.
Today, visitors can find a bell and plaque in the courtyard which serves as a monument to remember this event that changed the course of American history.
Following the Civil War in 1866, newly freed men and women of West African heritage (Gullah Geechee) established a community they called “Little Africa,” later renamed Lincolnville. Located just southwest of the historic downtown, Lincolnville was developed on the former Yallaha orange grove plantation.
Henry Flagler’s investment resulted in a rapid expansion of the neighborhood with wood-frame houses, historic churches, and maritime buildings. Home to the largest concentration of Victorian-era buildings with original records citing 548 contributing structures, Lincolnville was designated as a historic district in 1991 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Located at 102 Martin Luther King Avenue, the Lincolnville Museum & Cultural Center traces the city’s Black history back to the enslaved people who fled the Carolinas, through the Civil War, and the Civil Rights era. In the former building of Excelsior School, St Augustine’s first black public high school, the exhibits explore the contributions of African Americans in defense, music, business, and more.
Visit the museum Tuesday through Thursday, 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, and on Saturday by appointment.
The ACCORD Civil Rights Museum aims to remember, recognize, and honor those who risked their lives to attain civil rights for all and celebrate St Augustine’s pivotal role in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The building formerly served as the dental office for Dr. Robert B Hayling and was the first medical office in the city with an integrated waiting room. While in St Augustine, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. held strategic meetings for sit-ins and marches in this building.
The museum and guided tours are available by appointment only until further notice.
Take a free, self-guided tour of the ACCORD Freedom Trail, covering 31 historic sites, by picking up a brochure and map at the St Augustine Visitor Information Center on San Marco Avenue. Dial 904-335-3002 to take advantage of the free audio tour, available 24/7.
Located on the corner of Martin Luther King Avenue and Bridge Street, Preserved serves up refined yet authentic Southern fare with locally sourced ingredients crafted by James Beard Award nominee Chef Brian Whittington.
Dine inside the beautifully restored historic Jefferson House boasting a warm and charming Victorian ambiance or enjoy your meal on the patio or gorgeous wrap-around porch.
With history as a public library, barbershop, and music studio, Corner Market continues to be a staple of the Lincolnville community. This local market offers natural foods, gourmet beet products, baked goods, art, jewelry, and clothing.
Visit Corner Market at 97 Martin Luther King Avenue from Tuesday to Saturday.
Start your day with hearty comfort food classics at the Blue Hen. Enjoy chicken biscuits, datil barbeque Cuban sandwiches, and fried green tomato tacos from this welcoming kitschy diner.
Do not forget to ask about the whipped peach butter for the perfect biscuit sidekick!
The Blue Hen is located at 117 Martin Luther King Avenue and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm.